Apr 25, 2015

Penguin Tales: The Superhero Edition

(this is our sort of weekly digest where I share happenings, special events, photos, Facebook statuses and etc. of our week) I was sick last week and never got this posted. I will post this week's soon.


I try to be relaxed about the kids socializing a bit during school time. But, as with most kids, if you give these people an inch, they will take a mile and eventually I do have to start "shhhhing" them. Then there are those days where no amount of "shhhhhh!!!!" seems to have an effect, so I put on classical music (very loudly, because I am that kind of mom) to set a sort of calming atmosphere. Monday, we had one of those days and quickly found Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on Youtube. A sort of silence descended upon the room and I turned back to listening to Abbie read. After a few minutes, I look up to discover both boys have laid down their pencils, risen to their feet, and are miming shooting machine guns in time to the music. Not being a small boy, I would never have thought such a thing was possible, but they found a way.


An impromptu history lesson ended with this:

Me: Do you know who she was? She was Henry VIII's daughter!
Nate: Henry VIII. He fancied beheading.

And our spelling class inspired this conversation:

Me: I don't understand why you don't write on both sides of the paper, Kaytie.
Nate: I do!
Me: Why?
((short pause while we all stare at each other))
Me: Why doesn't she write on both sides?
Nate: OH! No, I meant I do write on both sides of the paper. I was thinking, "If you don't know why she doesn't and you don't know why I do, then you have issues!"


I showed the kids this picture, of when they were little and cute, and Abbie declared, in haughty tones, "I think I should have been the one to sit down!"


Our co-op had a "dress like a superhero" day. Kaytie went as herself.


Abbie and her friend were so cute that his mom took pictures. 



Apr 21, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: ARTistic Pursuits


My twelve-year-old daughter, Kaytie, loves art. She loves art of any kind, but one of her favorites right now is drawing and painting. And one of her favorite resources for learning how to draw/ paint is ARTistic Pursuits. We have reviewed many of their books in the past so she was delighted when we were asked to review for them again and absolutely thrilled when she realized she was old enough to use Middle School 6-8, Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition. She's been waiting for this one a long time!

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 The curriculum is all in one, soft-cover, comb-bound, book. It contains 16 Units which are divided into Lessons. There are a total of 68 lessons and they follow the same basic pattern:
Lesson 1 = be creative
Lesson 2 = look (at the Unit topic) and a challenge
Lesson 3 = how to and a new technique to try
Lesson 4 = the project

There is an assignment for each lesson, and it is printed in a different color to stand out for the student. The book is full of illustrations so the student has plenty of examples to work off of. There are also many Student Galleries scattered throughout the book, so the child has peer examples, full of imperfections, to examine. This helps keeps the child (at least my child) from thinking she has to draw like an adult.

The book talks directly to the student. So I can hand it straight to Kaytie and she can do it on her own. She loves not having me get in between her and her creativity. She also loves that she can do it whenever she likes, not "just" for school. She frequently pulls the book out and works on it in her free time in the afternoons.

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 The suggested schedule is to have "art class" twice a week for an hour each class, this will take your student through the material in a 36 week school year. Kaytie will probably work her merry way through it in the next four or five months and be ready for the next one in the fall. You can use the book any way you want.

I love that the lessons stretch her talents. I love that she learns new things in a step-by-step, low-pressure process that expects her to explore, discover and create on her own. She draws what she wants to draw. This is no "follow our method and wind up with carbon copy results" book. This is a "do it, try it, see if you like it, erase and do it again," book. And that's another thing. I love that text tells her not to worry about perfection. She tends to get hung up on doing it right, the first time, and ARTistic Pursuits has been wonderful at getting her to loosen up and play around.

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 Mixed in with each lesson is art appreciation and art history. Kaytie enjoys seeing "real" art pieces by "real" artists, some of which she knows, and some of which is brand new to her. I just like having one more subject eased off my plate as she enters Middle School.

And speaking of Middle School, in the back of the book is an evaluation sheet that will help you assign your child a grade if you need one.

Since she does art all the time, we had almost all of the supplies she needed to do the lessons, but in case you need to purchase something, there is a complete list right in the front of the book, or you can look online as well. That link also has the complete Table of Contents.

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 Kaytie said:
I like the way it is separated into Units. This makes the lessons short enough that I can do one a day. I like how I can see how I'm improving, because every lesson gives me a project. I like being able to look back on those and see how I get better all the time.  I like how it goes back on what I already know but gives me a new take on things. I like how every few lessons it combines what I learned in previous lessons with the new lesson. 

One of my favorite things about ARTistic Pursuits is that they are all 100% non-consumable. I can use them with all of my kids simultaneously. Or Kaytie can use them, reuse them (Yes! She has done this! She loves them so much that she has gone back and worked her way through the books again after a few years. They are so creative and open-ended that she can easily do this and still learn a ton the second time around!) and then the younger kids can use them when they are ready. Just something to keep in mind as you are looking at the price tag. :)

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  ARTistic Pursuits offers a wide range of curriculum from Preschool to Highschool. As I said before, we have reviewed several ARTistic Pursuits products before and you can read those by clicking on the links below:

Early Elementary K-3: Stories of Artists and Their Art

Elementary 4-5 Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition

Elementary 4-5 Book 2: Color and Composition

You can also read other Crew Reviews for other ARTistic Pursuits' products by clicking on the banner.

ARTistic Pursuits Review


ARTistic Pursuit Facebook page



Crew Disclaimer

Apr 15, 2015

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Memoria Press Penmanship


Handwriting is one of those things that we struggle with in our family. I have four kids that are writing-phobic in various degrees. One of the most effective ways of dealing with it that I have found is to teach them cursive. It's just easier to write in cursive than it is to print. So when Memoria Press asked the Crew to review their New American Cursive: Penmanship Program Workbook 1, I was first in line to request it for Daniel, my 9 year old, who is learning cursive this year.




We received book one, a spiral-bound, consumable workbook that contains all you need to teach your child to write in cursive. The teacher's guide, which covers Posture, Pencil Position and Paper Position and a quick explanation of how to teach the material, is three pages long at the beginning of the book. 

The rest of the book is for the student. Mr. Meerkat speaks directly to the child, explaining how to hold the pencil, position the paper, and the three basic forms required to write in cursive. There is some practicing of these forms, and then the alphabet pages begin.

There are three pages for each letter. An instruction page, a practice page and finally a "fun exercises and artwork" page. The first two are fairly self-explanatory. The third is a glorified review page that varies with each letter. Sometimes it is joining letters together, sometimes it is practicing capital letters, sometimes it is writing words. But each page has a space for artwork. We were a little confused about the artwork part at first. I told Daniel to write the letter and then draw a picture incorporating the letter. He eventually ditched that idea to just drawing an object or animal that started with that letter. At regular intervals, there are additional review pages that are just purely review. Here are some pictures of these pages. I let Daniel chose which to share with you.


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As you can see, both the capital and lowercase of each letter is taught at the same time.

At the end of the alphabet there is a page to practice numbers. Then a couple of pages of instruction about connecting the letters and some pages to practice this. Following this is a couple of pages for the child to trace and copy a thank you letter, the entire alphabet and the Pledge of Allegiance. 

At the very end of the book, there is an evaluation checklist for the teacher where you can monitor 11 different areas of their handwriting. 


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This book was very simple to use. My kids are pretty good at independent work, so I handed it over to him with a short explanation and he did a page every day. I watched him from afar, to make sure he was using correct paper placement and I looked over the page every day when he was finished. I praised good letters, offered constructive criticism, and voted for my favorite of his work. We always pick the best one, sometimes we circle it, sometimes we put a smiley face on it, Sometimes we give it a quick checkmark, sometimes we just pick it and go on. 

Daniel's opinion:
I liked it because it helped me learn cursive. It was a little boring because I did the same thing for each letter. I liked the art pages.  

I enjoyed the ease and simplicity of the book. I do wish the letters weren't in alphabetical order, but went from easy letters to more difficult ones. I also wish there was a little more variety in the pages and that the teaching of letter connection was put into the book before the child is expected to write words on the review pages. But overall, I enjoyed the ease of teaching my son cursive with this workbook. It was fun for him, simple for me and it worked. He is learning to write beautiful cursive. 


Memoria Press Review


Crew Disclaimer

Apr 14, 2015

Spring Fever

It's that time of year! The fun time when a homeschool mom's thoughts turn toward a fresh, clean slate. Do you know what you are going to be doing next year? I have a rough idea and a list written in pencil of the subjects we are going to tackle. I have a few things I need to research and I totally reserve the right to change my mind between now and next fall.

First, let me just say that Kaytie and Nate (who do the same work, mostly) will be in 7th and 6th grade, respectively. Daniel will be in 4th and Abbie in 3rd.

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Mostly, things are staying the same. We will still be using:

Math U See (but the kids will move up a level; Zeta for Kaytie and Nate, Delta for Daniel, and  Gamma for Abbie)

Fix It! for grammar (Kaytie and Nate will do level 2 and hopefully finish it and level 3, Daniel and Abbie will start level 1)

All About Spelling (Kaytie and Nate will move into level 5 and Daniel and Abbie into level 2. I'm hoping that in spelling as well, the big kids can pull off two levels. I would really love to be done with spelling.)

History will still be our own thing. (we will still be in Ancient History but I am steadfastly refusing to allow that to bother me. Who says the entirety of history has be crammed into four years?)

Spanish for Kaytie and Nate will be Duolingo, which is free on the Internet. Daniel and Abbie will work on Flip Flop Spanish with me.

The three younger kids will still be working on copywork daily to help with their handwriting. The boys are doing cursive and Abbie will start learning it if her print is good enough by then.

Daniel and Abbie will still be reading aloud to me daily. They are growing into better readers all the time, but still need that discipline of regular, frequent work.

And, of course, we will be finishing up The Crew year and working on reviews.



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 What will be new:

They are all getting piano lessons starting this month. We are super excited because a friend and fellow homeschooler is going to teach them: a sweet young lady who is willing to come to our house and give lessons to all four kids! Woot!

For science, Kaytie and Nate will be using Apologia's General Science which I bought used last year. Daniel wants to learn about Earth science and Abbie wants to learn animal Biology, so right now the plan is to bounce around Christian Kids' Explore Earth and Space and Considering God's Creation. I like this plan, because it means I don't have to buy anything for science! :)

We are going to do a geography unit that I will be writing and I'll also be writing a Texas History Unit for Kaytie and Nate.

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What will be new but I don't have figured out at all yet:

Bible will also be new, but I don't know what we will be using. Daniel and Abbie might stay with Bible Study Guide for all Ages but Kaytie and Nate are kind of aging out of it. Hopefully, the Dad will set us up with an exegesis method of study that they can follow on their own/ under my supervision.

Kaytie and Nate will work on photography, logic (maybe using the Thinking Toolbox?), Latin, writing, and art (using I don't know what yet).

What are your plans for next year? Are you thinking about them yet? Are you making big changes, little changes, or no changes at all?


Apr 11, 2015

Penguin Tales: The First Edition

(this is going to be a sort of weekly digest where I share happenings, special events, photos, Facebook statuses and etc. of our week)


We started off with Easter


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Can you see the egg they are fruitlessly looking for?



The Dreaded Jungle Basset tried to turn the drapes into a dress but it didn't work out well.



Daniel likes to play the "Alphabet Game" as we are driving, so we hear a lot of, "B in Boston, L in limit". As we were going to soccer practice, I was only half listening to the chatter in the van when I suddenly hear Daniel say, "F in Brownfield!" He said it very quickly. Try it...

Thankfully, my first thought was, "What did Brownfield ever do to him?!?!" so I didn't say anything I would regret before it occurred to me that he doesn't even know language like that and OH!!! He's playing the alphabet game!!!

Abbie came in from playing one evening looking like a freedom fighter.


So naturally we had to play it up a bit. Need a guerilla? Though she be but little, she be fierce.



We were discussing building a bird feeder for our bird unit study that we are working on and Daniel offered, "I have this old 3 liter Root-beer bottle."
I was startled, "Where did that come from?"
"I saved it from Nate's birthday party."
I was even more startled, "You've had this stashed away since Nate's party?"
"Yes."
"Why?!?"
It was Kaytie that answered, in a very matter-of-fact voice, "Because we are awesome like that!"

Abbie told a joke:

Abbie: When is the best time to go to the dessert?
Me: Uh... after supper?
Abbie: No. At tooth-hurty!
Me: What? Oh, did you mean the DENTIST?
Abbie: I guess so.
((short pause))
Abbie: Why aren't you laughing?

She still doesn't truly get the purpose of jokes.

Nate went on his first Boy Scout campout. He graciously allowed his wistful mama a photo op before he left.






This is from his daddy's photo op...



The three kids that stayed home played an incredibly awesome game at soccer this morning and then went with good friends to a Ranch Day.








While Nate and the Daddy were gone, we woke up one 2am to hail. I jumped up to go put the van in the garage. Kaytie came out to help me move the bikes and then closed the garage/house door to keep the Dreaded Jungle Basset out of the way. As I turned the key on, I saw the garage door swing open and a dog face appear. Hoping she would have the sense to stay out of the way, I pulled forward. 

As soon as she saw me headed her way, a look of horror flashed over her expressionless Basset face and she turned tail and fled back into the house. I guess she thought I was out to get her?



Apr 4, 2015

April Fool Fun

I know a lot of people frown upon April Fool's and the pranking that happens on that day, but in our family, a sense of humor prevails and we just plan on having plenty of harmless fun. We do have a few guidelines:

  1. No hurting people. 
  2. No hurting people's feelings. It isn't funny to say things like: "You're hair is ugly! Just kidding!" Don't do it.
  3. No destruction of personal or public property. 
  4. No wasting food. Food pranks are fine, but it has to still be edible at the end. Wasting food is something I feel strongly about and we don't do it just for fun.
  5. This last one isn't really a rule, but I strongly advise people to only pull a prank that they could handle being pulled on them. 
Otherwise, no holds are barred in the feast of ideas.

As the first one up, I have the chance to start things off. 

I wrote on the kid's cheeks with crayola marker. :) A very sweet message. :) This was not as easy as I thought it would be. The kids kept twitching and rubbing their cheek. I didn't even get Kaytie at all because she opened her eyes suddenly. I told her to "Shhhh, go back to sleep" and she did, but then I started laughing and couldn't stop so I just left. 

I later used this to my advantage to cast suspicion her way. ;)


I also rearranged some things in the kitchen. The kids had trouble finding breakfast foods. But that was ok, because the silverware to eat it with had mysteriously disappeared!!!


When they came to me to get their daily math sheets, I gave them an algebra worksheet that I had printed off Math U See's website. They were a little taken aback. Nate kept saying, "This isn't even possible!"

I even pranked the baby that we babysit. I made him a bottle of milk and handed it to him. Used to being held while he drinks bottles, he just stood there, looking at it and then at me. 

Nate turned the milk blue and made Daniel some green scrambled eggs. Abbie gave everyone an addressed, empty envelope. 

Daddy also got in on the action. He rubberbanded the spray nozzle and then went to work. Kaytie turned the water on and got an unexpected shower. :) She freaked out a little, thinking she had broken something and started turning the spray nozzle around in an attempt to get it to turn off. She had sprayed the entire kitchen before I could say, "Turn the water off!!!"

As you can tell, she was amused by the incident. 


When Daddy gloated about "winning April Fool's" the kids' competitive streak kicked in.

They taped his remote, put confetti on the fan, taped the light switches and replaced the toilet paper with a sign that said, "Feed me!"

Best of all, they put our cold pack into his bed, down near the foot...

The girls tried to trick me with fake puke, but I just thought someone had painted an abstract picture of a lily pond.

My personal favorite of the day was Nate's. We ate supper outside on our patio that night and he willingly offered to go grab a fork for the pickles. He returned with a piece of paper upon which he had written, 4rk. Then Daddy asked him to bring him a glass of tea and Nate returned with this:



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